There was good news and bad news out of the governor's press conference today.
Louisiana reported 218 new cases Tuesday, and bumped up to fifth in the nation for per-capita cases, Edwards said.
Unfortunately with 61 new deaths reported, Louisiana's deaths are still higher than expected based on the believed transmission rates, he said.
"We continue to look at that and try to figure out why that is," he said. "And I don't want anyone to forget, those aren't numbers. Those are people."
On the good side, the rate of positive tests is good, at about 5 percent. Testing is going to be vital, he said.
"The best news we had yesterday in White House task force conversation was the commitment the federal government made, that the task force will support efforts to reach 200,000 tests per month, starting in May," Edwards said. "That’s a significant ramp up. It’s also critically important because we need to have this testing in place so we can monitor what’s going on. It's incredibly important that we do that."
The 200,000 figure was submitted to the CDC last week and was approved, Edwards said. Louisiana will start to receive test kits weekly to get up to 200,000 per month, he said.
Having enough tests will allow medical staff to test people who aren't symptomatic but are in a communal living situation - like a nursing home - to see if people who are infected but not showing symptoms. There are more than 4 million people in Louisiana, so 200K won't test them all, but it's a way to start testing people via a prioritized list, officials said.
Another testing direction would be serology tests for antibodies, in other words testing people to see if they had the virus and recovered from it.
In response to a question from the media about the extension of the stay-at-home order, and the effect on small businesses, Edwards said it’s important to take steps to re-open the economy in a way that can be sustained; because if the numbers spike, restrictions have to be replaced.
“If you try to forge a path forward too quickly and cases spike again, you actually do more damage and more lasting damage to our economy if we try to do it right to begin with. If you keep going back and forth, I think that’s the worst thing that can happen,” he said.
It’s a balancing act, he said.
“This is not a light switch where you can go from dark to complete light, it’s a dimmer switch. That’s why we’re trying to get right in balancing the need to re-open the economies we can with the imperative to protect public health,” he said. “Striking the right balance can be very difficult, and wherever you strike it, there will be good people on either side saying you waited too long or you started too early. That’s why we took the guesswork out of it and followed the science.”
As he always does, Edwards answered questions from the public. One question was about masks.
Everyone older than 2 years old should wear a mask, unless they have breathing issues, he says. Everyone should wear them inside and outside, if they will be around anyone who doesn't live at their house. That includes day cares - the workers and the children over 2, Edwards said.
Here are some tips on masks, from Dr. Alex Billioux, assistant secretary of the state’s Office of Public Health:
- Masks limit the amount of virus you shed.
- They're not designed to protect the person wearing them; they're to protect the people around that person.
- A mask needs to cover your nose and mouth, and it needs to fit - so that you're not adjusting it frequently.
- Wash your hands before you put it on, and wash your hands before you take it off, because you're touching your face.
- Anytime you are around someone you don't live with, stay at least six feet away and wear a mask.
- Cloth masks should be washed every day, and during the day if they get dirty.
The media asked if anyone in his staff recommended against extending the stay-at-home order, as he did yesterday. Edwards said no. He said his staff sat through the presentations from medical professionals and they also knew that Louisiana is a hot spot for the virus.
"We were hoping, when we looked at the data, that we would have improved enough to proceed to Phase I, and that just wasn't the case," Edwards said.
He said Louisiana had left a significant part of the economy open to begin with.
During Monday's press conference, the governor announced that Louisiana's stay-at-home order would be extended to May 15.
That extension, according to the governor, comes with three major changes to the current order.
- Malls will remain closed to the public, but stores may open for curbside delivery.
- Restaurants will be allowed to open their outside areas for patrons to eat meals only, without tableside service.
- All employees of a business who have contact with the public must wear a mask.
- Additionally, both the CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health strongly urge everyone to wear masks when in public.
The Louisiana Department of Health says that the extension of the order, which goes into effect May 1, is necessary to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
While overall new cases and hospitalizations have decreased, LDH and the Governor's Office say several regions, including the Acadiana area, have seen an increase in the number of cases and/or new hospitalizations. See data trends, here.
Gov. Edwards is expected to make his next announcement on moving to Phase 1 of the White House's reopening plan on or by May 11.
As of noon on Tuesday, April 28, there were 27,286 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Louisiana, with 1,758 deaths. That's an increase of 218 cases and 61 deaths.
The department of health was also reporting, as of April 26, that 17,303 coronavirus patients in Louisiana are "presumed recovered."
To see the latest numbers from LDH and a breakdown by parish, click here.
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